Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing Blog: Posts Tagged ‘Frederick County’

The Benefits of Ductless Splits AC in Gaithersburg

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Ductless splits air conditioners are designed to eliminate the need for ductwork in a home where space is at a premium. Usually homeowners with older homes – those built before the 1970s – have very little space to work with when it comes to installing the ductwork a traditional central air conditioning system requires. These homes are often heated with radiant boiler systems and have window units to provide cooling in warmer weather. As a result, cooling costs can be extremely high each summer and the house usually isn’t comfortable during these months.

Ductless air conditioning offers a solution to most of these problems. Not only does the technology not require ductwork to be installed; it allows for multiple in-room units on a single compressor and it costs significantly less to operate compared to window AC units.

Ductless System Specifications

Ductless air conditioning systems consist of two major components: a compressor which is placed outside and indoor evaporators. With the use of inverter technology, these systems can support multiple evaporators – usually as many as four to a single condenser. This means you can have a single outdoor unit supporting cooling four separate rooms of your home at the same time.

Each of those indoor evaporators acts as a heat pump, allowing you to both heat and cool the room year round. And because the only connection needed between evaporator and condenser is a single refrigerant line, the installation is much simpler than it would be for a ductwork based central AC system.

Room by Room Benefits

While the primary benefit of a ductless system is the fact that it allows you to install air conditioning in multiple rooms of your house without the need for ductwork, there are other benefits. Not only do you get a much higher energy efficiency rating than you would with traditional window units (many ductless systems are rated at 16 SEER or higher while window units are frequently as low as 10 or 11), but you can control each unit individually. So if a room upstairs doesn’t need to be cooled during the afternoon hours, simply turn off the thermostat in that part of the house and save money.

There are some factors to consider when installing a ductless system. How many rooms do you need cooled? How warm does it get in the summer? Will the system be used for heating in the winter? These are all things you may want to discuss in greater detail with your contractor when you call for an estimate. For more information about having a ductless split air conditioning system installed in Gaithersburg, give Tuckers Air Conditioning & Heating a call at 301-670-0034!

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Air Conditioning Repair Tip: The Danger of Refrigerant Leaks

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Your air conditioner is filled with a chemical compound called refrigerant. This substance is what allows your air conditioner to remove heat from and dehumidify your home. It is a necessity, but it is also a dangerous chemical that, if released, can cause damage to the environment and pose health risks to your family.

 Why Refrigerant Is Dangerous

There are many types of refrigerant but most air conditioners use either R-22 or Freon coolant – depending on their age. Newer air conditioners may use R410-A refrigerant, an environmentally safer alternative.

All of these refrigerant types are chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs. These chemicals are controlled substances by the Environmental Protection Agency, meaning they must be properly removed and disposed of. Because your air conditioner does not consume any of coolant in operation, it should never need to be refilled unless there is a leak. Such a leak should be stopped immediately due to the immense damage CFCs can do to the environment.

If you suspect a leak, you should call a Bethesda air conditioning professional immediately to inspect your air conditioner.

 Damage to Your Air Conditioner

Beyond the environmental and health issues posed by a refrigerant leak, the biggest problem you will face is damage such leaks can cause to your air conditioner. Low refrigerant levels put undue stress on your compressor and can lead to damage in almost every part of the device.

Not only that but the air conditioner won’t work as efficiently. A 10% loss in refrigerant volume can result in up to a 20% increase in electricity cost to run your air conditioner.

 What to Do in the Event of a Refrigerant Leak

If you suspect a refrigerant leak in your air conditioner, take action immediately. Call a certified Bethesda HVAC technician who can recapture the escaped gasses and seal the leak fast. It is important not just for your safety but for the wellbeing of the environment.

For any repairs to your air conditioning system, give Tuckers Air Conditioning & Heating a call a 301-670-0034!

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Air Conditioning Question: Why Are Clean Filters So Important for Efficiency?

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Your air conditioner cost money to operate – even more when they don’t work at 100% efficiency. So, it is important to perform the various regular maintenance tasks that ensure the system uses as little electricity as possible. The first thing on your list (and the easiest) is cleaning those filters.

Keeping Filters Clean

Did you know that you can lower your air conditioner’s energy use by up to 15 percent by just keeping your filters clean? While that might seem surprising, it actually makes a lot of sense when you consider how the filter works.

The filter on your AC captures dust and debris that is circulated through your system. If you didn’t have a filter at all, the dust and dirt would not only cause problems with some of the mechanical parts of your AC but also reduce your indoor air quality. However, when a filter is clogged, your HVAC system has to work harder to draw air in. Your motor will need more electricity for the same amount of cooling.

It takes very little to clog the filter of an AC unit, especially if it is running 24 hours a day for two or three months out of the year. So, it’s best to check your filters once every 30 days regardless of what type of filter you are using.

Which Filters to Check

The main filter on your AC unit should be checked along with any air handler filters and any air cleaner filters you have installed in your system. Another thing to consider is the condition of your home and the area around your outdoor condenser. If you have pets, lots of plants or your condenser is located in a dusty area, you may need to check and change those filters even more often.

Most filters are located along the return length of the ductwork – sometimes in ceiling ducts and walls, though they may also be located in your furnace’s air handler or inside the air conditioning unit. If you have window units or mini splits, the filters are frequently in the unit.

Clean air filters are important for your health, your wallet and the longevity of your AC system. Stay on top of them and you will save money in more ways than you might expect. If you have any questions about how to best maintain your air conditioner this summer, give Tuckers Air Conditioning & Heating a call today!

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Heating Guide: How to Monitor Heat Flow from Furnace Registers

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Of the many kinds of heating systems, forced air furnaces are among the simplest in Rockville and monitoring the flow of heat is as simple as checking the registers and feeling the flow.

The Basics of Hot Air

At the furnace, usually in the basement or a central location, air is heated to a temperature set by the thermostat.  Once large and dominant, over the years, technological improvements have enabled furnaces to be much smaller and fit into closets.

With a fan, the warm air is circulated through a system of ducts and distributed at registers or grates usually in the floor.  A second grate takes the cooler air back to the furnace to be heated.

Going With the Flow

While a forced air system tends to fluctuate between cycles, temperatures should be consistent throughout the home from room to room.  As heat is distributed, rooms get quickly warmer, then cool several degrees as heat dissipates until the thermostat setting starts the cycle over.

If there is poor circulation, the efficiency of the system is greatly reduced.  The furnace runs more often, adding strain and cost to the heating of your Rockville home.  Some rooms remain comfortable while the rise and fall of temperatures in others may be more radical or remain too cool.

Monitoring the Flow

By turning the thermostat higher, the furnace will engage and begin to force air to the registers.

Most registers have adjustable slats that can be rotated to allow more or less flow.  Checking to make sure all are fully open is the first step.  There is usually a lever or gear in obvious view.

Make sure all registers are free to allow air movement and not blocked by furniture or carpets.

After testing with your hand to see if there is adequate air flow, using an infrared or dial thermometer will more accurately identify if there are differences from register to register which could indicate a blockage of some sort in the vent or a problem with the system at the furnace.

Solutions

Furnaces should be maintained on a yearly basis by contracting with a company like Tuckers Air Conditioning & Heating who can regularly change the filters, inspect the internal elements and ensure proper and efficient functioning of this most important part of your Rockville home.

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Kensington HVAC Question: What Is Air Purification?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

The air around us is getting more and more polluted these days in Kensington, and people are trying to do more and more to combat it. Cars come with ratings like “ultra-low emission vehicle” and windmills generate power from moving air rather than burning coal. No doubt, these efforts help, but if you want to take an active role in improving the quality of air in your own home, consider an air purification system.

Simply put, air purification is the process of removing contaminants and pollutants from the air. There are a number of devices on the market that can purify the air in your Kensington home. While anyone can enjoy the benefits of cleaner air, they are of particular utility for people which suffer from asthma or allergies, or who live in areas with higher concentrations of outdoor air pollution.

There are three main kinds of air purifiers, categorized by the kind of technology they use:

  1. HEPA filtration
  2. Negative ion generation
  3. Electrostatic precipitation

HEPA filtration purifiers simply filter the air that passes through them using a sieve-like filter or series of filters. Depending on the efficiency of the device and the filter, some of these purifiers can trap not only solid and like particles, but also gases and odors. One advantage of this type of purifier is that the HEPA filters can last for years before they need to be changed.

Negative ion generation and electrostatic precipitation models are more complicated and technical because of the technology they use. Consult with a professional to choose which kind of technology is best for your needs, depending on the air quality problem you are experiencing. Some air purifiers can trap bacteria, viruses, fungi or chemicals, so there is bound to be one that will suit your needs.

After deciding on which type of technology you need, you will also have to choose whether you want a portable air purifier unit or a central system that covers the whole house. Obviously the former works well if you are only concerned about the air in a room or two, while the latter is better if you have chronic asthma or a more widespread air quality problem.

If you have any questions about how to improve the air quality in your house, give Tuckers Air Conditioning & Heating a call today!

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HVAC Guide: How to Install a Programmable Thermostat

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Programmable thermostats are one of the best ways to save on heating costs, especially if you have a hard time remembering to turn down the heat in your Montgomery Village home. Installing a programmable thermostat will allow you to set the times you want the heat turned up or down. Not only will this make heating your home more consistent and save energy, but it will also allow you to tailor your heating needs to your schedule.

For instance, you can set the thermostat to turn on before you get up in the morning so that the house is already warm when you get out of bed, and conversely, set it to turn down after you go to bed or leave the house for work. Depending on the brand and setting options, programmable thermostats are relatively inexpensive and easy to install.

Although all styles are slightly different, here are some basic instructions that show you how easy it is to install a programmable thermostat.  Remember, this is only a general guide; always check the instructions inside the packaging of your new thermostat before you install it, or check with an electrician. Remember that Tuckers Air Conditioning & Heating has highly trained professional technicians that can help you install a new thermostat for your heating and air conditioning system.

1. Remove the Old Thermostat

Before you remove the old thermostat, check to see where it’s mounted. If it’s mounted to an electrical box, the voltage used to power the old thermostat may not be compatible with the new one. Ask a certified electrician or heating technician if you aren’t sure.

CUT THE POWER TO THE HEATING SYSTEM TO AVOID ELECTRIC SHOCK. You should always turn off the main power supply to your heating system before installing any new thermostat. If you aren’t sure how to do this, ask your Montgomery Village HVAC contractor. Once you unscrew the mounting plate for the old thermostat, just unhook the wires. Don’t throw an old mercury controlled thermostat. You should ask your local waste management facility how to properly dispose of mercury products.

2. Locate all Wires

Wrap the loose wires around a pencil to keep the wires from falling back into the wall. Identify and label each corresponding wire with a letter (do not use color coding since this is not always accurate). Strip the plastic off the ends of the wires about ¼ inch if you need to.

3. Install and Insulate Wallplate

If the area around the new wallplate is larger than the plate, insulate the hole with non-flammable insulation. Take the wallplate off the programmable thermostat and hold it against the wall to mark the screw holes with a pencil. Pull the wires through the large opening at the bottom and screw the plate to the wall.

4. Wiring

Make sure you are comfortable with wiring before you attempt to do any electrical installations. Check the manual for your programmable thermostat for instructions on wiring that specific model. In general, you’ll want to make sure you match the wire labels with the corresponding terminals on the thermostat. Sometimes there will be extra wires that aren’t needed. Always test it before completing the installation. Don’t forget the battery!

5. Install the Faceplate

Once you have it wired correctly, all you need to do is align the brackets on the faceplate with the corresponding slots on the wallplate and fasten the faceplate to the rest of the mounting. Lastly, tighten the screw at the bottom of the thermostat to hold it in place.

If you have any questions regarding programmable thermostats or this seems much too complicated for you to do on your own, give Tuckers Air Conditioning & Heating a call.

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Heat Pump Tips: What Happens When You Neglect Maintenance

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Just like any HVAC system, the heat pump in your Kensington home needs routine maintenance and yearly check-ups to operate as efficiently and safely as possible. You also don’t want your heat pump to wear down to the point of a major malfunction or breakdown, which can be costly to repair or may require a complete system replacement.

Here are some things that could go wrong and cost you a lot more in the end if you don’t keep up with the regular maintenance of your heat pump.

Damage to the Compressor

The compressor in a split-system heat pump works whether you are heating or cooling your home. In the winter, the compressor reverses the flow of the refrigerant to defrost the outdoor coils, and in the summer it supplies the refrigerant to cool the home, as well as cooling the outdoor coils. Proper airflow is vital to keeping the compressor running smoothly. Filters that are not changed regularly, dirty coils, and dirty fans can all restrict airflow, which will damage the compressor. Debris around the outside components should also be cleared to allow proper airflow.

Decreased Efficiency

When dirty or broken components restrict the airflow, this damages the compressor and decreases the heat pump’s efficiency levels.  Not only is it important to clean your heat pump regularly, but you should also have it checked by a certified heating technician once a year. This will also prevent safety hazards and other hidden issues with the heat pump.

Improper Refrigerant Levels

Most heat pumps are charged with refrigerant at the factory; however, if models that are charged when they are installed are not given the right amount of refrigerant this can also affect performance levels. Refrigerant leaks and other common problems can be prevented by scheduling an annual maintenance visit with one of our qualified Kensington HVAC technicians.

Don’t wait until the heat pump in your home stops working, call Tuckers Air Conditioning & Heating to schedule your yearly check-up.

 

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Heating Advice: Simple Steps to Prevent Heat Loss

Friday, February 24th, 2012

There are two fundamental ways to make your Silver Spring house warmer. One is to generate heat, which is the job of your furnace or boiler. The second is to keep the warm air in — and thereby keep cold air out — which is the job of your system of insulation.

The idea that the physical structure of a home can be a component of the HVAC system is one that is often overlooked, but when you think about it, it makes sense. The insulation, windows, doors and building materials that comprise your home are designed to keep the place warm against the cold and vice versa.

So, when bolstering your HVAC system to promote efficient heating, it is important to also consider heat loss and how to prevent it. This is a process that can get out of hand if you go overboard, so it is important to prioritize. Let’s look at the top 3 places to start when trying to prevent heat loss.

  1. Doors and Windows:  If you have older doors and windows, they could be a source of heat loss in your house, even if they are always closed. Replacing your windows and door with Energy Star rated ones will make sure that you are not losing heat to the outside AND still getting all the heat energy from the sun. Installing storm windows or putting up heavy curtains in winter can also help cut down on your heat loss.
  1. Seal off drafts. If any opening to your house, such as windows and doors, is improperly sealed, improperly installed or if the surrounding construction is deteriorating, you can lose a lot of heat. Check any drafts that you notice that might indicate a problem, and also if your vents and air ducts are leaky.
  1. Start at the top. If you want to go farther in sealing your house up against the cold, it is time to work on the insulation. When installing new insulation, remember that heat rises, so you get the most bang for your buck by starting at the top. If you only have the budget or time to insulate one space, make it the attic. You can work down from there.

These areas should be your top three priorities on your mission to prevent heat loss in your Silver Spring home. If you start here, you will get the best gains with the least effort. For more information on how to reduce you heat loss, give Tuckers Air Conditioning & Heating a call!

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HVAC Advice: Seasonal Air Quality Control

Monday, February 13th, 2012

For people who suffer from seasonal allergies in Bethesda, air quality is a key concern. Allergens in the air cause brutal bouts of sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes and even sinus headaches. Even taking refuge indoors will often not assuage these symptoms, as indoor air is often comparable to outdoor air in terms of allergens and overall quality.

That is, unless you take care to control the seasonal air quality in your home, which can not only help ease the suffering of allergies, but also soothe asthmatics, keep out pollutants and generally promote better overall health.

How do you go about controlling the air quality in your home? To start, try these simple tips:

  1. Vacuum carpets regularly. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and invest in some allergen suppressing bags.
  2. Keep your vents clean. This is also a good maintenance practice to lengthen the life of your ventilation equipment.
  3. Dust hard surfaces and wash bed linens weekly.
  4. Install HEPA filters in your ventilation system, such as in air conditioners or other air handler units. Use a higher rated filter to keep out more allergens and pollutants.
  5. Invest in and use an air purifier. Again, make sure to get one with a HEPA filter.
  6. Have your home tested for radon and carbon monoxide. Have smoke, carbon monoxide and radon detectors working properly at all times.
  7. Use a humidifier to keep overly dry air from irritating sinus passages.
  8. Keep doors and windows closed tight, especially during allergy season(s).

By taking charge of the air quality in your Bethesda home, you also take control of a measure of your family’s health. Some of these measures require at least a bit of an investment – for example, higher rated HEPA air filters are often more expensive and need to be changed more frequently – but the benefits to your well being and that of your family are clearly well worth it. If you have any question about what type of indoor air quality system will work in your home, give Tuckers Air Conditioning & Heating a call today!

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Indoor Air Quality FAQ: Things Your Air Filter Can’t Filter

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Air filters are great to have in your Chevy Chase home. Many people who own air filters, especially those who suffer from allergies or asthma, swear by them as being very beneficial to their health and general well-being. They help you feel comfortable knowing that your air is clean and fresh.

But how confident should you be in your air filter? Is there anything your air filter is missing? Can you be sure that your air is as clean as can be?

Well, all air filters have limitations, and many do particularly well at trapping and removing certain types of air pollutants, but at the expense of letting others pass. What your air filter can and cannot do depends on what kind of equipment you have.

A conventional air filter, like the pleated kind you may have in your air conditioner, is designed to trap particles in the air. Pollen, dust, dander and other small but solid pollutants and irritants get trapped in their close-knit fibers. The thing to pay attention here is the filter’s HEPA rating—the higher it is, the smaller the particles it can trap. So, if you are using a lower rated filter, you may be trapping pollen but still breathing in smoke particles. Also, sometimes large, heavy particles settle before reaching the filter and can’t be trapped.

A less common option is the gas-phase air filter. As you may guess from the name, these filters are meant to filter out harmful gases in the air. They do not trap particles and usually have a short life, so they need to be replaced frequently.

In addition to filters, there are other air cleaning options like ultraviolet germicidal (UVG) lights and photocatalytic oxidation (PCO) cleaners. PCOs are meant to filter out harmful gases, but have limited use in homes. UVG lights use radiation that is harmless to people but deadly to microorganisms to pure air of bacteria and other pathogens.

In sum, if you are concerned about the quality of the air in your home, the best strategy is probably to use multiple solutions, such as a combination of an air filter and UVG lights, in order to get rid of as many pollutants as possible. Keep in mind, though, that no system is perfect in keeping everything out of your air. If you need help choosing the right system for your Chevy Chase home, call Tuckers Air Conditioning & Heating today!

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